The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES)

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) provide continuous satellite observations that are a critical element of National Weather Service (NWS) forecasting and storm warning operations. The series of geostationary satellites, which track the Earth in a circular orbit about 35,790 kilometers (22,240 miles) above the surface of the Earth, monitor the atmospheric conditions that affect weather and space weather. They also provide valuable data on Earth’s climate and atmosphere, as well as aid in search-and-rescue efforts. The GOES series of geostationary weather satellites has been an integral part of the NWS mission since 1974. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is responsible for the design and procurement of the spacecraft, as well as the satellites’ onboard instruments. NOAA provides funding and requirements, and owns the resulting system in orbit.

The GOES-R series of satellites, launched in 2015 and beyond, feature state-of-the-art imaging instruments that provide high spectral, spatial and temporal resolution as well as enhanced radiometrics. They feature an Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) with three times the spectral channels, four times the resolution and five times the scanning speed of previous GOES imagers. GOES-R’s other instruments include the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensor (EXIS) and Space Environmental In Situ Suite (SEISS).

In addition to enhancing operational services, the GOES satellites enhance research on the atmospheric and oceanic environments. They are used to improve atmospheric and space weather models, and their data products allow scientists to better understand long-term climate trends.

GOES also contributes to improved public safety by monitoring for dangerous atmospheric phenomena. For example, the GOES-12 and -13 satellites are equipped with a system that detects signals from 406 MHz emergency beacons carried on planes, ships or individuals, and relays them to search-and-rescue crews.

Each GOES satellite has a unique name that is based on its position in orbit: GOES-E gives a view of the Eastern half of North America, and GOES-W offers a picture of the Western side of the continent. The satellites are designated by a letter before launch, and after they reach orbit they are given a number. Images from GOES can be viewed through NOAA’s NESDIS and NASA’s GEOS website.

The GOES satellites are controlled by NOAA’s Satellite Operations Control Center in Suitland, Maryland. During significant events, the satellites can be commanded to change their normal schedules to better monitor conditions.

The onboard Data Collection Platform (DCS) allows GOES satellites to receive narrow-band wefax data transmissions from remote automatic weather stations that are located near the Earth’s surface. The DCS is then able to relay the information via its auxiliary antenna to existing small, regional wefax receiving stations that are in radio view of the GOES satellites.